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BO´SPORUS THRA´CIUS, BO´SPORUS (Βόσπορος Θρᾴκιος: Eth.Βοσπόριος, Eth. Βοσπορία, Βοσποριανός, Βοσπορηνός, Steph. B. sub voce: Adj. Bosporanus, Bosporeus, Bosporicus, Bosporius), the strait which unites the waters of the Euxine and the Propontis.

I. The Name.

According to legend,it was here that the cow Io made her passage from one continent to the other, and hence the name, celebrated alike in the fables and the history of antiquity., (Apollod, [p. 1.423]2.1.2.) Before this it had been called Πόρος Θρᾴκιος. (Apollod. l.c.) Afterwards the natives gave it the name of Μύσιος Βόσπορος. (Dionys. ap. Strab. xii. p.566.) Finally the epithet Θρᾴκιος came into use. (Strab. l.c.; Hdt. 4.83; Eustath. ad Dionys. Perieg. 140.) Sometimes τὸ στόμα τοῦ Πόντου. (Xenoph.; Strab.; Polyb.) So also the Latin writers Os Ponticum (Tac. Ann. 2.54), Os Ponti (Cic. Ver. 2.4, 58), and Ostium Ponti (Cic. Tusc. 1.20). Pomponius Mela (1.19.5) calls it “canalis,” and divides it into the strait “fauces” and the mouth “os.” Its modern name is the Channel of Constantinople, in Turkish Boghas.

II. Physical Features.

The origin of the Thracian Bosporus has attracted attention from the earliest times; among the ancients the commonly received opinion was, that the Euxine had been originally separated from the Mediterranean, and that this channel, as well as that of the Hellespont, had been made by some violent effort of nature, or by the so-called deluge of Deucalion. (Diod. 5.47; Plin. Nat. 6.1; comp. Arist. Meteorolog. 1.14, 24.) The geological appearances, which imply volcanic action, confirm this current tradition. Clarke (Travels, vol. ii.) and Androssy (Voyage à l'Embouchure de la Mer Noire, ou Essai sur le Bosphore) have noticed the igneous character of the rocks on either side of the channel. Strickland (Geol. Trans. 2nd series, vol. v. p. 386), in his paper on the geology of this district, states that these pyrogenous rocks, consisting of trachyte and trachytic conglomerate, protrude through beds of slate and limestone, which, from the fossils they contain, he assigns to the Silurian system. The prevailing colour of these rocks is greenish, owing to the presence of copper, which gave the name of Cyaneae to the weather-beaten rocks of the Symplegades. (Daubeny, Volcanos, p. 335.) This channel forms, in its windings, a chain of seven lakes. According to the law of all estuaries, these seven windings are indicated by seven promontories, forming as many corresponding bays on the opposite coast; the projections on the one shore being similar to the indentations on the other. Seven currents, in different directions, follow the windings of the coast. Each has a counter current, and the water, driven with violence into the separate bays, flows upward in an opposite direction in the other half of the channel. This phenomenon has been noticed by Polybius (4.43); he describes “the current as first striking against the promontory of Hermaeum. From thence it is deflected and forced against the opposite side of Asia, and thence in like manner back again to that of Europe, at the Hestiaean promontory, and from thence to Bous, and finally to the point of Byzantium. At this point, a small part of the stream enters the Horn or Port, while the rest or greater part flows away towards Chalcedon.” Rennel (Comp. Geog. vol. ii. p. 404), in his discussion upon the harbour current of Constantinople, remarks that it is probable Polybius was not altogether accurate in his description of the indented motions of the stream, or where he says that the outer current flows toward Chalcedon. The stream in a crooked passage is not (as Polybius supposes) bandied about from one point to another, but is rather thrown off from one bay to the bay on the opposite side, by the agency of the intermediate point.

Herodotus (4.85) makes the length of the Bosporus to be 120 stadia, but does not state where it begins or ends. Polybius (4.39) assigns to it the same length; this seems to have been the general computation, the measurement being made from the New Castles to as far as the town of Chalcedon. (Milrnan's Gibbon, vol. iii. p. 5; comp. Menippus, ap. Steph. B. sub voce Χαλκήδων.) The real length appears to be about 17 miles. The breadth is variously estimated by different writers. Strabo (ii. p.125; comp. vii. p. 319) seems to say the narrowest part is 4 stadia broad, and Herodotus (l. c) makes the width the same at the entrance into the Euxine. But Polybius (4.43) says the narrowest part is about the Hermaean promontory, somewhere midway between the two extremities, and computes the breadth at not less than 5 stadia. Pliny (4.24) says that at the spot where Dareius joined the bridge the distance was 500 paces. Chesney (Exped. Euphrat. vol. i. p. 326) makes out the width at the narrowest point, between Rúmílí--Hisár and Anadóli-Hisár, to be about 600 yards. Further onwards the channel varies in breadth, from 600 or 700 yards to about 1000 yards, and at the gate of the Seraglio it extends as far as 1640 yards. The two great continents, though so slightly removed from one another, are not, it seems, as Pliny (6.1) states, quite within the range of the human voice, nor can the singing of the birds on one coast, nor the barking of dogs on the other, be heard. With regard to the well-known theory of Polybius as to the choking up of the Black Sea (Euxeinus), it may be observed, that the soundings which have been made in this strait show a great depth of water. (Journ. Geog. Soc. vol. i. p. 107.)

III. History and Antiquities.

The pressing for ward by the Hellenic race towards the east about twelve centuries before our aera, when regarded as an historical event, is called the Expedition of the Argonauts to Colchis. According to Humboldt (Cosmos, vol. ii. p. 140, Eng. trans.), the actual reality, which in this narration is clothed in a mythical garb, or mingled with ideal features to which the minds of the narrators gave birth, was the fulfilment of a national desire to open the inhospitable Euxine. In accordance with this, the names of many of the places of the two opposite coasts bear evidence to their supposed connection with this period of Grecian adventure, while the crowd of temples and votive altars which were scattered in such lavish profusion upon the richly wooded banks of the strait displayed the enterprise or the fears of the later mariners who ventured on the traces of the Argonauts. The Bosporus has been minutely described by Dionysius of Byzantium, the author of an ἀνάπλους Βοσπόρου, about A.D. 190 (Hudson, Geog. Minor, vol. iii.), and by P. Gyllius, a French traveller of the 16th century (Gronovii Thesaurus, vol. vi. p. 3086), Tournefort (Voyage au Levant, Lettre xv.), and Von Hammer (Constantinopel und die Bosporus).

A. The European Coast.

  • 1. AIANTEION (Funduklu), an altar erected to Ajax, son of Telamon, and the temple of Ptolemaeus Philadelphus, to whom the Byzantines paid divine honours. (Dionys. B.)
  • 2. PETRA THERMASTIS (Beschiktasche or Cradle Stone), a rock distinguished for its form; the road-stead near this rock was formerly called PENTECORICON, or Anchorage of the Fifty-oared Ships. Not far from this was the JASONIUM, called by the later Greeks DIPLOKION, or double column, and the laurel grove. (Comp. Steph. B. sub voce Δάφνη. [p. 1.424]
  • 3. ARCHIAS (Ortalcoi).
  • 4. ANAPLUS (Kurutschesme) or VICUS MICHAELICUS, from the celebrated church to the archangel Michael, which Constantine the Great erected (Sozomen, H. E. 2.3), and Justinian renewed with so much magnificence. (Procop. Aedif. 1.8.) In the 5th century this place was remarkable for the Stylites or Pillar Saints. (Cedrenus, p. 340.)
  • 5. HESTIAE (Arnaudkoi), the point of the rocky promontory which here shuts in the Bosporus within its narrowest breadth, and therefore produces the greatest current in the channel (μέγα ῥεῦμα, Polyb. l.c.). Here stood the church of S. Theodora, in which, under Alexius, the son of Manuel Comnenus, the conspiracy against the Protosebast was commenced. (Le Beau, Bas Empire, vol. xvi. p. 314.)
  • 6. CHELAE (Bebek), a bay on which was a temple to Artemis Dictynna.
  • 7. PROMONTORIUM HERMAEUM (Rúmílí--Hisár), the promontory at the foot of which Mandrocles built the bridge of Dareius, though its site must not be looked for in a straight line between Rúmílí--Hisár and Anadolí--Hisár, but a little higher up, where the sea is more tranquil. On this and on the opposite site side were the old castles which, under the Greek empire, were used as state prisons, under the tremendous name of Lethe, or towers of oblivion(Gibbon, vol. iii. p. 6), and were destroyed and strengthened by Mohammed II. before the siege of Constantinople.
  • 8. PORTUS MULIERUM (Baltaliman, Plin. Nat. 4.12; temple, it may comp. Steph. B. sub voce Γυναικοπόλις).
    9. SINUS LASTHENES or LEOSTHENES (Stenia, Steph. B. sub voce l.c.). The reading in Pliny (l.c.) should be Leosthenes, instead of Casthenes, called by the later Byzantines Sosthenes (Niceph. p. 35; comp. Epigram by Leont. Schol. Anthol. Planud. 284), the fairest, largest, and most remarkable harbour of the whole Bosporus.
  • 10. CAUTES BACCHIAE (Jenikoi), so called because the currents, dancing like Bacchanals, beat against the shore.
  • 11. PHARMACIA (Therapia), derived its name from the poison which Medea threw upon the coast. The euphemism of later ages has converted the poison into health.
  • 12. CLAVES PONTI (Kefelikoi), the key of the Euxine, as here the first view of the open sea is obtained.
  • 13. SINUS PROFUNDUS (Βαθύκολπος: Bujukdereh).
  • 14. SIMAS (Mesaibuonu).
  • 15. SCLETRINAS (Sarigavi).
  • 16. SERAPEION (Rúmílí--kawák, Plb. 4.39). Strabo (vii. p.319) calls it the temple of the Byzantines, and the one on the opposite shore the temple of the Chalcedonians. The Genoese castles, which defended the Strait and levied the toll of the Bosporus in the time of the Byzantine empire, were situated on the summits of two opposite hills.
  • 17. GYPOPOLIS (Karibdsche), the mass of rock which closes the harbour of Bijukliman (PORTUS EPHESIORUM).
  • 18. CYANEAE INSULAE (Κυανέαι, Hdt. 4.85, 89; Diod. 5.47, 11.3; Strab. i. p.21 ; Dem. de Fats. Leg. p. 429; Συμπλήγαδες, Eur. Med. 2, 1263; Iphig. in Taur. 241; Apollod. 1.9.22; Πλαγκταί, Apollon. 4.860, 939; comp. Plin. Nat. 6.12), the islands which lie off the mouth of the channel. Strabo (p. 319) correctly describes their number and situation; he calls them “two little isles, one upon the European, and the other on the Asiatic side of the strait, separated from each other by 20 stadia.” The more ancient accounts, representing them as sometimes separated, and at other times joined together, were explained by Tournefort. who observed that each of them consists of one craggy island, but that when the sea is disturbed the water covers the lower parts, so as to make the different points of either resemble insular rocks. They are, in fact, each joined to the mainland by a kind of isthmus, and appear as islands when this is inundated, which always happens in stormy weather. Upon the one on the European side are the remains of the altar dedicated by the Romans to Apollo. (Clarke, Travels, vol. ii. p. 431.)

B. The Asiatic Coast

  • 4. ESTIAE (Plin. Nat. 5.43).
    5. HIERON (Anadóli-kawák), the “sacred opening” at which Jason is said to have offered sacrifice to the twelve gods. (Plb. 4.43.) Here was the temple of Zeus Urius (Arrian, Peripl. ad fin.), or temple of the Chalcedonians. (Strab. p. 319.) It has been supposed that it was from this temple that Dareius surveyed the Euxine. (Hdt. 4.85.) But as it is not easy to reconcile Herodotus's statement with the common notion of the situation of the temple, it may be inferred that this took place somewhere at the mouth of the strait, as, from its peculiar sanctity, the whole district went under this general title. This spot, as the place for levying duties on the vessels sailing in and out of the Euxine, was wrested from the Byzantines by Prusias, who carried away all the materials. On making peace, he was obliged to restore them. (Plb. 4.50-52.) Near this place, on a part of the shore which Procopius (Aedif. 1.9) calls MOCHADIUMI, Justinian dedicated a church to the archangel Michael; the guardianship of the strait being consigned to the leader of the host of heaven.
  • 6. ARGYRONIUM PROMONTORIUM, with a Nosocomium or hospital built by Justinian. (Procop. l.c.
  • 7. THE COUCH (κλίνη) OF HERACLES (Juscha Tagh), or mountain of Joshua, because, according to Moslem belief, Joshua is buried here.--Giant's Mountain.
  • 8. SINUS AMYCUS (Begkos), with the spot named Δάφνη Μαινομένη, from the laurel which caused insanity in those that wore the branches. Situated 80 stadia from Byzantium, and 40 from the temple of Zeus Urius (Arrian, Peripl.), formerly famous, for the sword-fish, which have now disappeared from the Bosporus.
  • 9. NICOPOLIS (Plin. Nat. 5.43; comp. Step. B. s. v.).
  • 10. ECHAEA περίρροον, or “stream-girt” (Kandili).
  • 11. PROTOS DISCUS and DEUTEROS DISCUS (Ῥοιζοῦσαι Ἄκραι: Kulle-bagdschessi), or bluffs against which the waters beat. At this part of the coast, called by Procopius (Aedif. 1.8) Βρόχοι, or, in earlier times, Πρόοχθοι, from its jutting out, Justinian built the church to the archangel Michael which faced the one on the European coast.


hide References (22 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (22):
    • Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library, 1.9.22
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 11.3
    • Euripides, Medea, 1263
    • Euripides, Medea, 2
    • Herodotus, Histories, 4.85
    • Herodotus, Histories, 4.89
    • Herodotus, Histories, 4.83
    • Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, 4.860
    • Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, 4.939
    • Polybius, Histories, 4.43
    • Polybius, Histories, 4.50
    • Polybius, Histories, 4.52
    • Polybius, Histories, 4.39
    • Cicero, Against Verres, 2.4
    • Tacitus, Annales, 2.54
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 4.24
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 5.43
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 6.12
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 4.12
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 6.1
    • Cicero, Tusculanae Disputationes, 1.20
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 5.47
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